There are only a few teams that are undefeated around the world, and FunPlus Phoenix is one of them. With a 7-0, conceding only 2 games out of 16, they are at the top of the LPL standings. However, they haven’t had an international appearance yet; the 2019 Rift Rivals is their first. In their visit to Korea, prior to the tournament, we had a chance to talk to Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang.
Although Funplus Phoenix is doing extremely well in the LPL, but it may be rather new to some LoL fans around the world. Can you introduce your team?
We’re Funplus Phoenix. LPL fans know us as the regular season bullies. Last spring, we had a 14-2 record; this summer we won 7 out of 7. We did struggle in the playoffs, but this time, I believe we could do better since we have good momentum.
Fans evaluate Funplus Phoenix as a team that has proficient macro skills with Doinb in the center. What do you think your team’s biggest strength is?
One is that the champion pools of all lanes are extremely wide. We have no trouble with communication so if we start snowballing in our macro, it’s really fast.
Let’s talk about the Rift Rivals. LPL has been strong in the Rift Rivals. Why do you think that is?
This topic comes up whenever it’s time for the Rift Rivals. Why does LPL win all the time? I think there’s a food chain between the teams. In the main stage, the order for the teams to play is decided which is a lot more important than you would think. All teams have different win rates towards other teams. There are teams that they would try to avoid while against some teams, they’re very confident. This went well. LPL predicted how the LCK teams would form their lineup well.
The second reason is because of the style difference. The LCK teams usually win through macro. Some say that LCK teams guard their turrets for 30 minutes and that's boring... On the other hand, what we think is ‘how can we fight well to end the game within 30 minutes?’ LPL was able to pierce LCK’s weakness that comes from this difference. Guarding is simple: you defend, defend, and defend. But attacking has many different routes. According to last year, I think this was the difference.
Funplus Phoenix has strong laning, good macro, and works through the mid-jungle. People consider you have similar playstyle with Griffin.
I’m the main shotcaller for our team; I learn a lot from foreign leagues. Obviously, I would be learning from the strongest teams; that team was Griffin. Although they ended the season as runner-up in the spring, they were the monster of the spring split.
As I watch their matches and analyze, it feels that we’re getting similar in our style. We can improve through copying them, it may not be of much help, but we’re trying to absorb Griffin’s strengths while maintaining our team color. Another thing that helped was that we played a lot of scrims with Griffin towards the end of the spring split.
Then which team are you looking out for the most among the four LCK teams?
Up to now, I’d say Griffin. First, our scrim record against them isn’t that good. When we play, Tarzan keeps appearing out of nowhere. He’s really the king of the jungle. Like they say Ji-sung Park has three lungs... it seems Tarzan has two brains. Maybe four legs.
*Note: Ji-sung Park is a soccer player that had played for Manchester United. He is often referred to as a player that has 'two hearts' or 'three lungs' due to his playstyle being everywhere at once.
DAMWON Gaming jungler Canyon is also a player to look out for. When I play Korean solo queue, I often duo with Canyon. When he gets his hands on a aggressive jungle champion, his movement doesn’t make sense. He dominates the first 15 minutes.
Honestly, all LCK teams aren’t easy. There aren’t any teams that I think we can beat no matter what, but if we have a choice, I would like to avoid Griffin.